In case you haven’t heard, or read the banner on this very site over the weekend, the Chicago White Sox will be sending three players to Cleveland to participate in the All-Star Game on July 9.
This is an improvement over recent years. Last year, only first baseman José Abreu received an invitation, and in 2017, only outfielder Avisaíl García did. The last time the White Sox had three All-Stars was 2014 (Abreu, Chris Sale, and Alexei Ramírez).
Of the White Sox’s three representatives, the only one who would not have been a surprise at the beginning of the season is Abreu. The 32-year-old is an All-Star for the third time in his six-year MLB career. He receives a bid despite having the lowest OBP of his career (.309). His power numbers, on the other hand, are quite respectable (.508 SLG and 19 home runs). It is worth mentioning that Abreu probably should have had one more home run (and thus a slightly higher slugging percentage) if not for this bizarre play, which Baseball-Reference could not make sense of.
Abreu also continues climbing up the White Sox franchise home run charts, adding to his White Sox resume. With his clutch homer against the Red Sox last week, Abreu surpassed Jermaine Dye for seventh on the all-time White Sox home run list, with 165. He has been a consistent contributor for the White Sox during the vast majority of the Hahn era, and it is nice to see him getting recognition.
Abreu’s overall numbers render him a 112 wRC+ hitter, which is above average but still low for an All-Star first baseman. His modest 0.7 fWAR supports the argument that he lucked out by being named an All-Star. But, given White Sox players’ history of getting snubbed, we will take it. Congratulations to Abreu for this accomplishment.
Now, for one of the shocking bids. Catcher James McCann, who had a 58 wRC+ last year and was only above replacement level per FanGraphs once in his career, is an All-Star. I cannot believe I just typed that. McCann, 29, was arguably undeserving of a major league contract after his performance last year and general track record.
Sure, McCann has been a little lucky. A .403 BABIP has made his job easier. The league average is usually around .300, so McCann’s BABIP shows more of his batted balls have fallen in for hits than we would normally expect. However, his hard-hit rate is in the 77th percentile, which means McCann has not been as lucky as his BABIP would suggest. McCann’s expected wOBA (.352) is 29 points lower than his actual wOBA (.381), which is a significant gap, but it’s not massive.
Lucky or not, McCann’s turnaround is pretty remarkable. We just don’t see players transform from a minor leaguer to a 2.1 fWAR player in half a season often — especially at a relatively advanced age. At the beginning of the season, I did not like seeing McCann’s name in the starting lineup. Now, I am happy to see him in the middle of the order. Congratulations to McCann on earning the first All-Star bid of his career.
Lastly, 24-year-old pitcher Lucas Giolito has earned the first All-Star bid of his career. That’s right. In case you’ve been in a coma since the beginning of the season, Giolito has made quite the turnaround. He has been good. Like, 2.72 ERA and 3.1 fWAR good.
Lucas Giolito, Disgusting 84mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/YlunMySJ1S— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 30, 2019
Out of the three White Sox who are heading to Cleveland, Giolito is the only one who is clearly piece of the long-term future. Like McCann, Giolito entered this season with negative WAR for his career. All of a sudden, Giolito is pitching well enough to be the ace of a contending team, and is on the short list of contenders for the AL Cy Young. What a story that has been. Congratulations to Giolito on his first All-Star bid.
Though it is difficult to complain about the results, there were a couple of other White Sox who could have been selected.
One is reliever Alex Colomé, though his case depends which metrics you prefer. On one hand, Colomé has been about as reliable as a closer can be, with a 2.16 ERA and 18 saves in 19 opportunities. On the other hand, his FIP is 4.10, his xFIP is 4.82, and his opponents’ BABIP is only .099. So, good fortune has been a factor of Colomé’s success in the first half.
Another player who is deserving is Yoán Moncada, a cornerstone of the rebuild, who is having the best season of his young career. In 203 games with the White Sox prior to this year, Moncada was worth a total of 3.1 fWAR. In just 74 games this year, however, he has already been worth 2.8 fWAR.
Moncada’s numbers are improved across the board on offense, as he is slashing .304/.357/.528 for a 134 wRC+. His batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage are all career highs. As for Moncada’s defense, the metrics say he is adjusting to third base nicely. According to FanGraphs, he has been a more valuable defender this year (2.2 runs above average) than last year (1.5 runs below average) despite playing a less important position.
Take that, February Joe. (Happy to be wrong.)